From those in healthcare to the service industry, working moms share how they're coping.
The growing number of cases of the new coronavirus, coupled with school closures, have forced moms to adjust the way they work. Many are now doing their jobs remotely while watching their kids at home. But others are still required to go into their workplaces, risking exposure, and with the added task of arranging childcare. To get an idea of how they’re faring, we listened to moms across the country in different industries.
1. “As a working parent, I always needed a plan B for childcare in case a child is ill, but this has become a reality more than ever now.”
Nina Brodsky, M.D., F.C.C.M. is a pediatric critical care doctor from Connecticut. Like other hospitals, hers has been “preparing for a surge of patients, and employing several measures to try to mitigate the situation,” like restricting visitors and canceling large conferences. She told Working Mother that at her job, she’s most concerned about her medical staff colleagues “who will bear the brunt of this pandemic.”
At home, Dr. Brodsky is worried about finding alternative childcare. She’s scheduled to be on service in the hospital for the next week and a half.
Another source of stress is making sure her kids practice good hygiene. “Our kids are also listening to all the talk about COVID-19, so explaining the situation to them in a constructive and non-threatening manner may go a long way,” she said.
2. “I live and work in a county with no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but we get patients coming in who think they have it literally every day.”
Anne*, from Illinois, has one child and works as an emergency medical technician for a hospital in a rural area. She said the biggest effect of coronavirus on her job is the mass hysteria from patients. “Most of them have not left the country or even been around anyone who has, they’re just convinced that they’ve gotten [COVID-19] somehow. So we’ve had a huge influx of patients with flu-like symptoms that don’t really need to be utilizing the ER coming in and using time and resources that they don’t really need.”
That includes masks, which her hospital has had to remove from waiting rooms and desks. “People come in and grab them by the fistful, or actually grab entire boxes to take home. Now we’re having to dole them out to patients ourselves. All patients with respiratory symptoms get one, and we will also give them to anyone who asks, but we tell them that due to the shortage and our very real need to have them as healthcare workers, we can only give them one.”
She told us her day-to-day hasn’t changed much yet. She understands that she might be exposed, but that it’s “sort of what you sign yourself up for when you work in the ER.” She continued, “We often don’t know what we’ve been exposed to until after the fact, and this is no different.”
3. “I may carry a travel hand sanitizer around more for the moments when soap isn’t available, but I refuse to let it affect my life at this point. I can’t live in a bubble.”
A registered dental hygienist in Rhode Island, Kristin Macera said she is not afraid of catching the virus. She’s used to washing her hands multiple times an hour because that’s what she was trained to do, and she taught her kids to wash their hands frequently as well.
At her workplace, they can no longer order the same amount of supplies, but so far, they haven’t run out of masks. She does not know what will happen if they do. As for exposure to patients, she told us, “We have agreed as an office that if anyone shows signs of being remotely sick that we will send them home. For the most part if people are sick they do cancel their appointments anyway.”
4. “I make sure to remind families to CANCEL if a child or anyone in the home has a fever or persistent cough.”
Sarah Pampillonia, a mom of two from New Jersey, is a child development specialist. Her job requires her to go to homes or daycare. She told us she doesn’t have more concerns about doing visits due to coronavirus because she and her kids are not immunocompromised. “Maybe I’d feel differently if someone in my home was immunocompromised. I do have one immunocompromised child on my caseload, and always think about HER, and make sure if I don’t feel well, I cancel (but this is how I always conduct myself).”
The NJDOH is sending her job advisories. “We can no longer bring our own toys into homes. Usual precautions of washing hands and sanitizing before and after working with a child are being heavily promoted,” she said. Families are also canceling more frequently or freezing services altogether, though she notes hers haven’t.
5. “As a healthcare worker, it’s just another virus, but as a mom, I’m scared and concerned because I’m on the front lines.”
Michelle Largoza, R.N., has a 3-year-old son who is at daycare three days a week. Her work routine hasn’t changed. “We treat the coronavirus threat like any other airborne illness and use the same precautions. It’s not much different than having a patient with symptoms of tuberculosis, which has been around.”
The shortage of masks, however, have made it a bit more difficult. She said previously accessible N95 masks are now kept under lock and key.
She admits that when she sees the medical supply closet and sees the mask and sanitizers, she sometimes goes into survival mode. “I think, ‘should I take these home to protect my family?’ But then I tell myself, ‘OK, relax. That’s crazy, just go back to work.’”
These moms on social media are also giving us a glimpse of how their work has changed due to COVID-19.
6. “As an ICU nurse, I can confirm we often are short critical care beds for patients. This is the case without coronavirus adding to the needs. We are entirely unprepared as a country.”
According to her profile, the author of the post, @EileenFrn, is a mom too.
7. “I am thankful my job allows flexibility, but it’s still daunting!”
On LinkedIn, Elizabeth McFarlan Scott, a partner at Nua Group, in San Francisco, wrote that she recently had to figure out a setup if she had to work remotely with her kids at home. With her 9-year-old’s school closed, she and her husband have set the expectation that her older son will have to “work” in the office with them for part of the day. They also have a spreadsheet with daily coverage if both kids are out of school and she and her husband have to work from home. It details a plan for what the kids will do, such as chores, playdates in parks, iPad/Tv, and who will be the adult on duty. She also said she’s reached out to other moms to arrange “recess” meetups during the day.
8. “As a single mom not having a paycheck for 5 weeks straight… It’s scary as hell.”
According to her profile, Twitter user @calliieeeeeeee is a teacher aide at a school district that was just closed down for five weeks. Her tweet was in response to another user who asked people to leave their CashApp name if they needed $20 for groceries or to stock up on anything.
9. “As a teacher, I’m being expected to learn and deliver instruction to students along with my own kids who are in grades 6, 4 and 2.”
Sarah Myers, who runs the account @Soccer_3_Mom, is based in Wisconsin. Her tweet was a rely to user Peg Grafwallner, who said she cringes at school districts and some teachers who are creating schedules and plans for students. Peg wrote, “I understand many are trying to create a sense of the new normal. But, let’s just all take a breath and do the best we can in these first couple of days/weeks. The routine will come.”
10. “I work as a bartender waitress in Ohio and I’m not sure how I’ll make it through as a single mom of 3.”
@Jane_love22 responded to a Twitter user who posted an article about a customer leaving a $2,500 tip before a restaurant and bar in Ohio planned to close that evening.
11. “I’m a working mom with two boys. Their school just shut down for at least 2 weeks. I’m a waitress/cook/delivery person at a tiny family owned restaurant that was already not doing great before all this. Now it’s completely dead. I have to pay rent, car insurance and phone bill.”
Kala Sawyer, aka @glamlifejunkie, tweeted to Team PULTE, an account for philanthropist family, the Pultes. They asked people to comment on their thread if their job or kids’ schools have shut down because of the coronavirus, and they need assistance with groceries.
- Name has been changed.
Written by Maricar Santos for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.